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Rafi Malkiel: My Island (2007)

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Rafi Malkiel: My Island How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Latin jazz artists faces important choices when shaping their debut album. First-time leaders write original music or interpret standards—the resultant repertoire and musical expressions display wisely chosen risks or lack of judgment. Musicians invite guest artists to perform, adding a sense of cohesion or confusion to the album's overall sound. The musical direction deserves careful consideration; the recording represents the musical identity that will follow their name. Trombonist and euphonium player Rafi Malkiel offers a broad range of Latin styles and jazz ideals on his debut as a leader, My Island.

Malkiel arranges several standards, incorporating both jazz tradition and cultural authenticity. Malkiel's euphonium slyly sings the melody on "Nature Boy, over a Columbian porro rhythm, trading phrases with clarinetist Anat Cohen. The song bursts into a Cumbia rhythm behind Cohen's melodically inventive solo and tenor saxophonist Chris Karlic's intensively searching improvisation. Hoagy Carmichael's "Stardust adopts an elegant beauty as a danzón, both through Malkiel and bassoon player Gili Sharett's sensitive melodic interpretation and its intricate arrangement. Malkiel's group demonstrates a clear jazz foundation, and their creative arranging establishes a unique personality.

Several original pieces showcase Malkiel's mastery over harmonic ideas and Latin rhythmic structures. An improvised exchange between Malkiel, trumpeter Steve Gluzband, and percussionist Anthony Carrillo slowly segues into an up-tempo bomba rhythm on "Blue Bomba. Karlic plays a bebop-flavored solo through the blues changes, followed by bassist Andy Gonzalez's rhythmically intricate statement. Malkiel and Cohen exchange melodic ideas over a Brazilian rhythm on the opening to "Choro for Anat. Cohen aggressively drives sequences into the upper register of her instrument, while bassist Dave Hertzberg finds a balance between melodic and rhythmic ideas. Malkiel's writing combines interesting jazz ideas with rhythmic traditions and creates inspiring settings for improvisation.

Malkiel also invokes Caribbean traditions, utilizing vocalists and sparse instrumentation. A quasi-symphonic introduction gives way to a steady series of montunos from pianist Jack Glottman and tresero Chacho Schartz on "Guajira con Trombón. Schartz's tres solo brings an authentic sound and phrasing to the song, complemented by Carrillo's intensive percussion feature. Malkiel delicately shapes the melody on the bolero "Los Tres Juanes, followed by Abraham Rodriguez's conventional Cuban vocal. The passion and longing in Rodriguez's voice provides a sincerely sentimental atmosphere. These songs ground the album in Caribbean culture, establishing a connection between modern experimentation and past tradition.

Malkiel's finely tuned musicality and creative spirit lead him to a variety of wise artistic choices that shape My Island. His reconstruction of several jazz standards marks both knowledge of jazz history and performance practice. Malkiel's creative application of Cuban, Brazilian, Columbian, and Puerto Rican rhythms reflects a broad study and an ability to see beyond convention. Malkiel's supporting musicians confidently support his overall concept, and his interaction with them proves inspiring. All these elements display a musical maturity beyond first-time bandleader status, laying the foundation for a successful future in the Latin jazz world.

Track Listing: Gozambique; Black and Tan Fantasy; Danza Magica; Los Tres Juanes; Nature Boy; Stardust; Coballende; Blue; Bomba; Fuga, Fuga, Fuga; Ze Hu Ze; Choro for Anat; Guajira con Trombn

Personnel: Rafi Malkiel: trombone (1, 2, 4-9, 13), euphonium (3, 5, 10, 12); Abraham Rodriguez: lead vocal (4, 7), vocals (7, 13), clave, guiro (4, 6, 7, 13); Anthony Carrillo: bongo, timbas, bells, chekere, maracas (1, 4, 6-9, 13); Andy Gonlez: baby bass (1, 4, 7-9); Dave Hertzberg: upright bass (2, 3, 5, 6, 12, 13); Henry Cole: drum set (2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 12, 13); Jack Glottman: piano; Pablo Mayor: piano (3); Anat Cohen: clarinet (2, 3, 5-9, 12, 13); Chris Karlic: tenor saxophone (2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 13); Itai Kriss; flute (1, 2, 4, 6-9, 13), vocals (7), guiro (6); Steve Gluzband: trumpet (, 6, 8, 9, 13); Gili Sharett: bassoon (2, 6, 13); Howard Johnson: tuba (2); Chacho Schartz: tres, vocals, lyrics (13); Ronald Polo: tambora, snare drum (3, 5); Morris Caate: alegre, platillos (3, 5); Sergio Borrero: llamador, maraca (5); Ze Mauricio: pandero (11, 12).

Record Label: Raftone

Style: Latin/World


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